EPA Revised Health Advisory Levels
On June 15, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it has revised the Health Advisory levels for four specific PFAS compounds. The new Health Advisory levels are set near zero and are undetectable by modern laboratory methods at this time. Current laboratory methods can only reliably detect down to 4 parts per trillion (ppt) for most compounds. The prior Health Advisory level was set at 70 ppt.
The EPA, in its announcement indicated, “the new health advisories provide technical information that federal, state, and local agencies can use to inform actions to address PFAS in drinking water, including water quality monitoring, optimization of existing technologies that reduce PFAS, and strategies to reduce exposure to these substances.” Nowhere in the report did the EPA suggest that your tap water is unsafe or unable to be consumed.
In 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) set a drinking water notification level for PFOA (5.1 ppt) and PFOS (6.5 ppt). If exceeded, water providers must notify their governing bodies, and the State Board recommends they inform customers.
Beginning in 2019, SJW voluntarily and proactively monitored all of our wells for PFAS. This comprehensive testing of our water system showed that none of SJW’s water sources exceeded the CA response level. Ten wells were found to have PFAS levels at or near the notification level of 6.5 ppt and were promptly removed from service. Customers who were impacted by these wells were notified by letter in 2019. SJW is in the process of evaluating the best available treatment technologies to remove PFOS from the water served by these wells.
- SJW has been carefully monitoring the regulation of PFAS at the federal and state level. Sampling shows that SJW water sources are consistently below the CA response levels of 10 ppt for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOs in all water sources.
- SJW is concerned with any potential risks to safe drinking water and is committed to protecting public health.
- SJW continues to test all wells for PFAS compounds at least annually, but in many cases quarterly. The results of our testing in 2021 can be found in our water quality report at: www.sjwater.com/ccr.
- Based on the new guidelines, SJW is working to identify potentially impacted wells and expects additional direction from the EPA and the State Water Resources Control Board on new Health Advisory levels, testing, and potential treatments.
- SJW will continue to update customers on PFAS, and our plans to maintain compliance with all state and federal water quality standards.
What is a Health Advisory?
Drinking water health advisories provide information on contaminants that can cause human health effects and are known or anticipated to occur in drinking water. EPA's health advisories are non-enforceable and non-regulatory. They provide technical information to state agencies and other public health officials on health effects, analytical methods, and treatment technologies associated with drinking water contamination.
The EPA health advisories are very conservative, based on a lifetime exposure to PFAS in drinking water. The advisories account for sensitive populations and potential PFAS sources beyond drinking water (like food, air, and consumer products) to provide an additional margin of safety.
What are PFAS?
PFAS are a group of manufactured chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products since the 1940s. There are thousands of different PFAS, some of which have been more widely used and studied than others. One common concern is that PFAS generally break down very slowly, meaning that concentrations can accumulate in people, animals, and the environment over time.
Water agencies did not manufacture PFAS or release them into the environment but must address PFAS when they are found in their water supplies.
What are the sources of PFAS?
People are exposed to PFOS and PFOA through food, food packaging, consumer products, house dust, and drinking water. Exposure through drinking water has become an increasing concern due to the tendency of PFAS to accumulate in groundwater.
What does parts per trillion mean?
Parts per trillion (ppt) is a unit of measurement. One ppt corresponds to a single penny in $10,000,000,000 or one minute in 1.9 million years.